Actions

Work Header

You Don't Have To Love Me

Chapter Text

You don’t have to love me.

Jon couldn’t get those words out of his head. Those heartbreaking, softly spoken words she had shyly uttered to him as she stood beside their father’s statue in the crypt. He had found her there after Lord Tyrion had first proposed the marriage alliance in front of the Northern Lords, gazing up at Lord Eddard’s likeness in rapt fascination, as if he would speak to her if she waited long enough, as if he would come to life and offer her condolences or advice.

When he closed his eyes he could see her still, the image of her face so familiar to him he could conjure it without a moments pause.

The glow from the candle she had lit illuminated her face, her eyes shining like embers in the gentle, golden light. She had startled when he found her, clearly not expecting company. But she didn’t know that this was also his favourite place to go when he needed to think. And she didn’t know that he knew she would be down here. Didn’t know that he watched her, knew her mind as well as his own.

‘Jon,’ she said with a nervous laugh. ‘I didn’t see you.’

‘I’m sorry if I frightened you,’ he apologised, as he edged closer.

She shook her head. ‘You did not. I was just -’ She glanced back up at her father’s statue and sighed. ‘Thinking.’

He watched her for a moment, but couldn’t make out her demeanour. She was always so stoic, something he knew she had learned in King’s Landing. She hid her true emotions, guarded herself in armour of her own making. Only her eyes told the truth. They shone with her feelings, her heart…at least for him. They were turned away from him now, however. And so he found himself saying, ‘I came down here to think, too.’

She spared him a kind, cursory smile, but said nothing more.

He moved even closer, watching her to gauge her reaction, and added, ‘Perhaps we could…think together.’

Talk to me, he silently urged. Tell me what you are thinking.

She was still turned away, but he could hear her small intake of breath, could see her shoulders as they slumped in resignation. It took a few more moments, but she finally turned to him, slowly and tentatively, her eyes avoiding latching directly onto his own. 

Jon felt a spark of triumph light him up as she faced him. ‘Lord Tyrion’s proposal,’ he started, hoping she would open up if he was the one to begin.

She nodded. ‘Yes.’

Nothing.

He waited for several long moments, but Sansa only stood there, shuffling her feet and wringing her hands together, while she looked anywhere but at him.

‘It’s madness, is it not?’ Jon hedged, with a half-hearted laugh.

‘No’ Sansa replied, in her light, lovely voice.

Jon stilled.

No.

Just that one word was like an arrow straight to his heart.

He opened his mouth to say something, but Sansa took that moment to look at him properly for the first time. Her cheeks were pink, her eyes unsure, but when she spoke there was a certainty and composure in her words which made him want to smile. The Lady of Winterfell, indeed.

‘I happen to think it is an exceptionally practical proposal,’ she declared formally. ‘Lord Tyrion is a clever man.’

He nodded his head absently, but he wasn’t thinking about Tyrion. He couldn’t take his eyes off Sansa, couldn’t get her words out of his head. ‘Aye. He is.’

She swallowed hard and he followed the action with his eyes, fascinated as the muscles in her long, pale throat moved. She slowly lifted her lashes, her chin still ducked down demurely. And in that moment she looked less like the Lady of Winterfell, and more like a young girl, timid and apprehensive, standing before her betrothed for the very first time. 

Betrothed. Jon’s throat ran dry and his heart began to beat frantically inside his chest. It was like a raven in a cage, clawing desperately to get out. 

‘Should we go up and notify the Lords?’

He blinked back to reality then, her words like ice water to the face. This is really happening.

He ignored the thrill racing through him at her suggestion and focused instead on the clear hesitance he could see in her eyes. Did she not want this? He wouldn’t force her. He didn’t want Sansa to feel trapped by him, coerced into something she would later come to resent. He didn’t want that for her…he didn’t want that for himself. I don’t want Sansa that way. He shook his head against that last thought, a sigh escaping him at his treacherous feelings, sneaking up on him without warning. ‘Sansa…’ he stammered. ‘Maybe…maybe we need more time to truly think -’

‘No,’ she repeated, her chin held high. She was back to being Lady Stark again. Even in the darkness of the crypts her power shone through, almost blinding him in it’s intensity. She was so much like her Lady Mother. Only with softer eyes, eyes which never looked on him in disdain, and a smile always ready for him when he needed it.

‘I agree to the terms set before us,’ she told him. ‘A marriage is the best course of action.’ She frowned then, concern, and something which looked a lot like panic, flashing through her eyes. ‘Do you not agree?’

‘Yes,’ Jon rushed to reassure her. There was such fear on her face. He couldn't have her thinking he didn’t want to…for whatever reason. He couldn't have her thinking he didn’t want her. That the thought of marrying her was a disappointment. He cleared his throat. ‘I…I agree. An alliance is…is the best way to move forward.’ He paused, watching her. ‘And marriage is the surest alliance of all.’

She nodded, straightening her spine and squaring her shoulders.  ‘Well then.’ She started forwards, but he stayed her with a hand on her arm.

‘But…’ Jon said, fighting her decision for some reason, though he couldn’t put his finger on why. She was right, it did make sense. The Northerners would never accept his claim to the throne. He was a Targaryen, after all. Even if he never knew his father, even though he grew up in the North and felt more Stark than anything else. To them, he would always be a Dragon. And they wanted their independence. They didn’t want a Southern ruler at all, let alone one with Dragon’s blood. 

And he needed the North if he was to rule well. It was the biggest kingdom, larger than the rest of them combined. An alliance was necessary if he was going to usher in a new era of peace. Jon didn’t want to be King, he never had. But it had fallen to him all the same, and if he was going to do it, he was going to do it right. There would be no more wars or rebellions. He was tired of fighting. 

He couldn’t win the peace he dreamed of without the North playing their part. And he couldn’t win the North without Sansa.

Even so…

‘Sansa, perhaps you should think more on this. It’s a big decision and I don’t want you to feel as though you have to -’

‘It’s alright, Jon,’ she said, her eyes glistening with realization. Her voice was delicate and soft. It was like music to him, just the sound of it from a distance lighting him up from the inside. And it would have brought a smile to his face even then…were it not for the broken note catching with her next words. ‘You don’t have to love me.’

She looked at him then, the raw vulnerability lancing him painfully through the chest, and shot him a shy, self-deprecating smile.

She was so beautiful. With her flame red hair pulled back off her face, her eyes glittering in the glow of the candle, her pale cheeks pinking with a nervous blush.

She thinks I don’t love her, he thought sadly as he gazed speechlessly at her, his heart turning over with the truth of her words. 

Sansa had always wanted to marry for love. He had know that since they were children. It was why she had been so taken in by Joffrey’s affected charm, why she had fallen victim to the sweet promises he offered. She still wanted that. She tried to hide it, but he knew her too well. She would always wish to be loved, truly loved, for herself and not her claim.

And that’s why, he realised, as he stood before her. That’s why she thinks I’m dragging my feet. She believed his hesitation to be tied to the knowledge that she wanted a love match, she thought he was hindering proceedings to respect her wishes, to give her the opportunity to find that for herself. Putting her wants and desires first. Like a good brother would, he thought bitterly, the words like poison. 

But I do love you.

He wanted to take her in his arms then, to wipe the sorrow off her face with his lips on hers. He wanted to kiss her silly until there was no doubt in her mind that she would not be entering a loveless marriage.

Misery pierced him hard and true in the gut.

Sansa was giving up the chance at love for her people. Or she thought she was. She didn’t know. She didn’t know that in doing this she would be giving herself to someone who already loved her more than anyone else ever could, somebody who would cherish her forever. 

It was a bleak, harrowing irony. In sacrificing her desires for a love match, she was inadvertently gifting herself a greater love than she could possibly imagine.

And she would never even know it.

How cruel, Jon thought forlornly. That the Gods would play with us like this.

He wanted to tell her. He didn’t want her walking towards him in the Godswood not knowing that she was loved. Not knowing that her husband to be would be everything she ever wanted, would treat her the way she had always imagined when she was a girl. 

But he stayed silent…because he couldn’t. Would she not be disgusted? They had only recently discovered they were cousins and not siblings. Nobody expected them to marry for love. It had not even entered Lord Tyrion’s mind, Jon was sure. It was all a political move for the benefit of the realm. 

Nobody had mentioned affection or attachment because it was…well…it was intolerable of a suggestion. They were siblings to all the world. Had been, until only recently. 

It didn’t matter that Sansa had never felt like his sister. Didn’t matter than when he had laid eyes on her when she first entered the gates of Castle Black, she had appeared as a stranger to him. Didn’t matter that in the months following it felt like he was learning her for the first time. Didn’t matter that she had made an impression on his heart that was not strictly familial. 

None of that mattered.

Jon couldn’t proclaim his love for her without revealing when it had started…and that would be met with outrage, he was sure. Perhaps even from Sansa herself. And he could not have that. He wanted her smiles and her laughter. He didn’t know what he would do without them.

So he found himself taking his hand away, plastering a false smile to his face and nodding.

‘Right,’ he said, and stepped back.

Something passed across her face, and if Jon didn’t know any better, he would have called it sorrow. A sharp anguish spiking her eyes before she glanced away, and it was gone. 

Sansa ducked her head, smiling herself, but there was something about it which seemed untrue, which seemed brittle and perfunctory. ‘It will all be over soon,’ she jested weakly. ‘And then we can get back to work. There is much to do.’

He swallowed, assessing her carefully as she busied herself with adjusting her skirts.

She wasn't looking at him. Why wasn’t she looking at him?

‘Sansa,’ he said, and there must have been something in his voice, because she instantly stopped and looked up.

He took a moment to choose his words, and then - ‘Sansa, do you want this?’ He pierced her with a look, a look he tried to instill with as much authority as possible. Don’t lie to me, he urged with his eyes. ‘Truly?’

She sucked in a shallow breath, her chest rising and falling rapidly in the darkness. Something flared within her eyes, but it was fleeting. Far too quick for him to distinguish it. Then she was nodding, her guard coming back up as she lifted her chin again. ‘Of course, Jon,’ she said, her Lady of Winterfell voice back in full effect. ‘It’s what is best for my people.’

That’s not what I asked.

She smiled at him again, kindness lifting her lips, and he knew she was trying to reassure him. ‘For the North.’

And that was the truth of it.

The sad, painful truth.

He sighed, bleak resignation filtering through his veins.

She was doing it for the North. And he was doing it for her.

True, Lord Tyrion was right. It made political sense. But that was why he needed to do it. Not why he wanted to. He wanted to because it was Sansa.

If only she wanted it for the same reasons.

And if only she knew…knew that she wasn’t giving up her chance at love. 

If only you knew…

He returned her smile, a tight tilting of his mouth, and he knew it didn’t reach his eyes. ‘Let’s go up then,’ he said. ‘They’ll be wanting our answer.’

Sansa nodded and moved past him. This time he let her and turned, watching as she disappeared into the darkness and away from the candlelight, taking a moment before he followed her.

You don’t have to love me.

Her words speared his heart, tearing through breast and bone. He had retired to his chambers as soon as they had notified the Lords that they would marry. The Great Hall had been a flurry of activity, of booming voices straining to be heard, and Jon had craved the quiet, the time away to think on what had been done, and what he had still to do.

He sighed deeply, his throat working with a swallow. He was laying in his bed, the covers pooled around his waist, while the darkness crept in through the window and his bedside candle cast ominous shadows all over the ceiling. 

This was typical Jon. Always brooding, always sullen.

The woman he loved had agreed to marry him. Only a few days from now they would be standing before the Wierwood tree in the Godswood, facing one another and speaking the words of marriage, pledging themselves to one another for all to see. They would be together, in every way a man and woman could be. They would have the bedding. Although there would be no ceremony, Jon had already decided that. When Sansa bared herself for him in that way for the very first time, there would be no eyes on her but his. Not only because she would be feeling nervous, he knew, but because he didn’t think he would be able to handle seeing the lust in another man’s gaze, wouldn’t be able to bear witness to the lascivious intent in their perusals. 

It was just like their Lord Father had always said, when he reminisced about his own wedding to the Lady Catelyn: it wouldn’t be right if he broke a man’s jaw on their wedding night. 

Indeed, Jon thought with a small, genuine smile. It would be a shame to sully the festivities with a brawl.

But still, they were to wed. And bed. Sansa would be his. In every way. He should have been happy.

But he could not be. How could he possibly?

Most men entered the bonds of arranged marriage praying that they loved their wife, or would grow to, at least. But Jon was going into his already loving her, and not being able to voice it.

Perhaps not ever.

And Sansa would never know. Never know that her sacrifice wasn’t a sacrifice at all, that she wasn’t giving up love. She deserved to know that, deserved to have that burden lifted from her heart.

He may have been days away from being tied to Sansa in every way possible, in both spirit and flesh, in words and action. But as he lay there in his chilly Winterfell chamber, Jon couldn’t help but feel further away from her than he ever had before. 

It was going to be a looooong wedding.

Chapter Text

Sansa had been married for 3 months now. Though, she didn’t really feel like it.

The wedding had come and gone in a blur. It was a daze of faces and words, white gowns and soft snow falling lightly in the Godswood. The following feast was much the same. A rumble of music and songs and laughter and shouts. Wine had been flowing, the tables laden with meats and fruits and cakes. Jon had even had a plate of lemon cakes placed right in front of her, for her hands only. She remembered thanking him for that, but she hadn’t touched any of them. Her stomach was in knots, her heart turning over heavily in her chest. She was far too distracted to eat. 

All she could think of was the bedding. Of how in just a matter of hours Jon would be touching her in ways she had always wanted, but had been forbidden to her until now. How was she supposed to hide it? How was she supposed to act like she wasn’t interested in the ‘procedure’ of consummation, how was she supposed to appear indifferent or even uncomfortable, when Jon’s touch was like a spark on her skin, lighting an inferno in her blood? She knew the moment he touched her she would melt in his arms…but she wasn’t supposed to. She was supposed to be the girl who had been his sister up until very recently, who was marrying him only for political unity. 

She had been excited, but she had no right to be. Jon would have been appalled if he knew. 

When the time had come, however, her new husband had dismissed the traditional rituals and taken her to their bedchamber alone. There had been no leers or merry shouts from the wedding party as they departed. There were no illusions from anybody present as to what this really was. It was nothing more than a political alliance. Everyone knew it. There were no winks as they passed from old drunken men, there were no giggles or whispers from the servants and maids who knew what was awaiting her at the top of the stairs. 

They had walked in silence, entered her bedchamber in silence - Jon had led her there without question and she was somewhat glad. She felt more comfortable in her own space. They had even drunk a cup of wine together in silence. The wild winter winds had been in full force then, howling outside her window like Jon’s direwolf, Ghost. 

Then he had turned to her, and Sansa’s heart had thumped so wildly she thought it might burst. She readied herself for his touch, tried to tamp down the shivers racing across her flesh, tried to remind herself that she was to appear indifferent.

But then he smiled, kissed her on the forehead and bid her goodnight.

‘It’s been a long day,’ he had said. ‘Get some rest. We’ll talk about…other things later.’

And then he was gone. Leaving her alone in her bedchamber, standing in the middle of the suddenly empty room in her white wedding dress, an odd mix of relief and disappointment swirling around inside her.

Jon hadn’t touched her since. He hadn’t visited her bedchamber, he hadn’t spoken of the bedding, he hadn’t even held a conversation with her that wasn’t about the running of the kingdom. 

He was busy, Sansa knew that. Since their wedding, Jon had made the necessary preparations to move his court to Winterfell. There had been a bit of grumbling from the Southern Lords and nobles at that, but Sansa understood. Jon was of the North. Even though the Northerner’s whispered the word ‘Dragon’ behind his back, to Sansa he was still Jon. And she knew Jon still felt more Stark than Targaryen. He always would. More North than South. More Wolf than Dragon. 

Jon was built in the North, ice ran through his veins. He wanted to rule from his home, and had therefore made the decision to make it his power base. So that’s what he had done. Winterfell was fast becoming the new Red Keep. Winter Town the new King’s Landing. New houses were being built, the town growing in size every day. Establishments and businesses were travelling North to take advantage of the increasing population. And that meant there were far more people around than there had ever been before. Winterfell was an excitable hub of activity. 

It wasn’t uncomfortable, however. Unlike King’s Landing, Winterfell still stood in the middle of the country, there was still ample room to roam and breathe. Sansa never felt stifled. But the extra faces and bodies meant her new husband was kept engaged at almost every minute of the day. And she wasn’t exactly wanting for things to do either. Jon may have been the King, and she his regent, but she was still Lady of Winterfell and Wardeness of the North. While her husband dealt with matters relating to the wider kingdom, she saw to her own region and people, receiving plaintiffs and visitors almost daily in the Great Hall. She had her own responsibilities. She wasn’t just a lonely Queen, starving for the attention of her King.

And yet…

She missed him.

Sansa stood on the battlements of Winterfell as a light snow fell, gazing out into the vast blanket of white. Her hood was protecting her hair from the flakes, but the cold breeze was biting her nose and cheeks, and when she breathed out, her breath hovered quietly on the air. A sigh left her, floating away on the wind and tangling with the snow falling at her feet.

Sansa and Jon were married now, but further apart than ever before. He barely said a word to her and when he did, it was about the realm, the North. It was about politics and business. He never looked her in the eye and seemed keen to always wrap up whatever conversation they were having. As if he couldn’t bear to be around her.

She had known it would be odd marrying when they had only recently thought of themselves as siblings. She had known there would be an adjustment period. But this was just ridiculous. She missed the way things used to be. When they could confide in one another, laugh together and simply sit in comfortable silence. 

Not only that, but the whole point of the alliance was to create a new era of peace, an era solidified by the birth of a new united dynasty. There would be no dynasty at all without children, and there could be no children without…well…

Sansa had tried broaching the subject to Jon several times throughout the past few months. But every time she mentioned anything of the sort, he would get red in the face and avoid her eyes, insisting that they would ‘see to those matters later.’ Whatever that meant. She didn’t know, because ‘later’ never came.

With one last sigh, Sansa turned and left the battlements, carefully making her way over the frost covered floor and back down into the castle. As soon as she escaped from the chill into the heated hallways, she breathed a sigh of relief and rubbed her hands together. Winterfell was a large, drafty structure, but with the temperatures outside being as severe as they were, anything warmer than that felt like the cozy toastiness of a fire to her.

Sansa made her way to her chambers, returning greetings as she went. A nod here, a ‘My Lady’ there. Some people even called her ‘Your Grace’ as she passed. As Jon’s Queen, she knew she was deserving of the title. But she still felt strange using it. The Northerner’s still called her ‘My Lady’ more often, anyway, since they clearly still thought of her as the Lady of Winterfell more than anything else. Besides, it felt odd being referred to as a Queen when she didn’t yet feel like one. How could she when her King refused to spend more than a few minutes in her presence? 

As soon as Sansa entered her chamber, she was besieged by a flurry of skirts and smiles as her handmaiden, Jeyne, scuttled towards her. ‘M’lady!’ She squealed in excitement, her chinks pink with enthusiasm.

‘Jeyne,’ Sansa laughed, as she was forced to a stop before she could barell into the other girl. ‘What on earth is -?’

‘There is another, m’lady!’ Jeyne beamed with bright, wide eyes.

Sansa stilled, her breath catching, and Jeyne nodded frantically, her smile growing in her chubby, freckled face. ‘I just found it. When I came to change your chamber pot. It was in the same place as always.’

Sansa’s heart began to beat hard inside her chest, and anticipation trilled throughout her veins.

Jeyne stepped aside, and Sansa moved forwards towards her bed. Sure enough, there it was. A single winter rose sitting on her pillow. The blue petals beautiful and stark against the white cotton of her linen.

Sansa’s stomach dipped in excitement and she felt her own lips begin to stretch with a smile. She quickly moved forwards and picked it up, bringing the rose to her nose and closing her eyes as she breathed in the sweet scent.

This was the only thing about the last few months which had made her smile, the only respite from the confusion and heartache which the distance from Jon had awoken inside her. 

Every few days Sansa would return to her chamber to find a winter rose placed atop her pillow. It had begun the day after her wedding. She had taken a walk in the Godswood and returned to find the flower waiting for her. She had assumed it was a gesture from one of her servants, a wedding gift of some kind. But then they just kept coming. Flower after flower, which she would place in a vase beside the window until they had all withered and she started from scratch.

She had tried to figure out who was sending them, alerting Jeyne to the strange occurrence and ordering her to keep an eye out. Sansa herself tried to take notice of who went in and out of her room, even those who simply passed by it. But she never found anything out of the ordinary, and still the flowers kept appearing. 

Jeyne had concocted all kinds of wild theories about secret admirers. She’d even set forward the notion of a ghostly spectre stalking the halls of Winterfell in search of his lost love, who apparently used to occupy Sansa’s chambers. According to Jeyne, he left the roses as a calling card to his Lady love, so she knew he was searching for her. This explained, Jeyne believed, why nobody ever saw who was leaving the roses. Since the spirit could move through walls and didn’t need to use doors.

Sansa had laughed it off, of course, and so Jeyne had settled for the far more tangible secret admirer explanation. Every servant or Lord who so much as looked at Sansa was a possible contender, and although she had dismissed Jeyne’s theorising as silly conjecture, at first, the more roses that kept piling up, the more Sansa couldn’t help but wonder.

Was it the strapping stable boy who fixed her saddle whenever she wanted to go riding outside the walls of the castle? Was it the cooks son who always had a lemon cake waiting for her when she visited the kitchens? Was it one of the Northern Lord’s sons, who had followed their father’s to Winterfell and who feasted every evening in the Great Hall? 

Sansa didn’t know, but every time she walked into her bedchamber and saw a flash of blue, her heart lighted and flipped in her chest. It touched her. The idea that, even though she was seemingly invisible to her husband, at least somebody was thinking of her. 

She heard Jeyne sigh dreamily behind her. ‘Don’t you wish you knew who it was, m’lady?’

Sansa breathed in the rose once more, and quietly said, ‘Yes. I do.’

She didn’t know why. It wasn’t like anything could come of it. If she did indeed have a secret admirer, that admiration would have to stay as just that. Sansa may have remained untouched by her husband, but she was still his wife, and Queen. She would not take a lover or carry on with another man. An entire Kingdom, a country, a realm was at stake. Nothing could come of this. So perhaps there was no sense in knowing. After all, the mystery was the best part. The wondering and searching, the theories and excitement she would feel whenever she caught that familiar sight sitting atop her pillow. 

Sansa wasn’t sure she wanted to give that up. Gods knew she needed a little thrill in her life. This was all she had. 

She walked to the window and placed the fresh rose among the others already in the vase. Once she was done, she gazed on them forlornly for a moment longer. The only bright spot of her now dreary life.


 

Sansa couldn’t sleep.

The wind was howling desperately outside her windows, the snowfall swirling angrily beyond the glass. She flopped onto her back in frustration, her legs twisted in her sheets. 

She glanced to the window, to the outline of the roses which were visible in the moonlight. They were taunting her. Her eyes kept drifting to them, her thoughts never far from the question of who was behind their regular appearances. She was angry at herself. Annoyed that she was making such a big deal out of it. It shouldn’t have been. She was sure many women had secret admirers, many men over the years who took a fancy and gifted them with such lovely gestures. 

But these women had husbands, they had children to care for. They had happiness and laughter to fill their days, and no spare time to think on such matters or grant them more than a wistful thought every now and then.

Not Sansa. Her days were empty of attention. So starved was she that the pathetic appearance of a rose on her pillow was the only thing which brought a smile to her face.

Jon, she thought grumpily. This is all Jon’s fault.

She hadn’t shied away from her wifely duties. She had tried to approach him about such things. He was the one who kept putting her off, who kept turning her away. She didn’t understand why. Yes, she knew this was awkward for him. But he had agreed to this union just as she had. If it was going to be an insurmountable problem, an obstacle he could not get past, then he should have said no.

This was absurd. They could not go on like this.

I won’t.

Sansa refused to have a single winter rose be the highlight of her days. She wanted a full life. A husband to talk to, children to love. Even if Jon never truly cared for her in that way, they could still be civil. They could still be friends. She wanted a family, a happy home. And there was only one place to start.

Before she could talk herself out of it, Sansa was out of bed, pulling on her robe and marching out of her room. The hallways were silent and dark at this time of night, but Sansa knew this castle like the back of her hand and would be able to walk it blind. She was at Jon’s chamber before she could blink, raising her fist and thumping it against his door without giving herself a moment to pause.

If she had, she might have had second thoughts and allowed them to send her scurrying back to her own chamber.

The door flew open before she even let her hand drop back to her side, and Sansa was momentarily stunned into stillness.

Jon was standing on the other side of the door, completely shirtless and wide eyed.

‘Sansa!’ He said, assessing her frantically as he took her in. ‘What is it? What’s wrong?’

She opened her mouth to answer, but got caught up on his chest, on the sight of the deep scars gouged into his flesh. And below that, the stark muscles which were carved into his stomach. And his arms. His arms! She had never noticed them before. She had never seen him without his clothes before. Sansa had no idea that his body looked like this. 

Her mouth ran dry and she swallowed.

‘Sansa?’

She blinked and snapped back to reality. Jon was staring at her, his expression concerned and curious. ‘What happened?’

It took her a moment to realise that he must have assumed something alarming had brought her to his bedchamber at this late hour, so she shook her head, wetting her lips to make sure she was able to speak.

‘N-nothing.’ she stuttered, a blush crawling up to her cheeks. She could feel her face blazing. ‘I just…’ Remembering why she was there, she straightened and fastened Jon with her best Lady of Winterfell stare. She had learned it off her Lady Mother and brought it out whenever she wanted to feel as formidable as possible.

‘I require an audience.’

Jon stared at her for a moment and then his eyes crinkled in amusement. ‘What?’

She drew in a deep breath and squared her shoulders, her hand tightening on her robe. It only just occurred to her in that moment how little she was wearing, and she suddenly felt extremely exposed. Especially when he was standing on the other side of the door in nothing but his trousers. They had never been this close before. With so little separating them. With only two steps, Sansa would be pressed up against him, with her robe and nightdress the only barrier between their bodies. 

‘I require an audience with the King,’ she declared formally.

Jon’s eyes lighted and his lips slowly stretched into a smile. And damn if her heart didn’t flutter at the sight of it. ‘What are you talking about, Sansa? You don’t need to request an audience to speak with me. You are my wife.’

‘Yes, I thought so,’ she replied, a little coldly. ‘But if the months following our wedding have taught me anything, it’s that being your wife, or even your Queen, does not naturally command your attention. In fact, your courtiers, knights and Lords seem to have better luck with that. So…’ She sucked in a heavy breath and boldly moved past him, letting herself into his chamber with a confidence she wasn’t quite feeling. She turned to face him, his eyes wide and his mouthing opened slightly in surprise. ‘I request - no. I demand an audience. Perhaps if I come to you as a subject, you will allow yourself to spend more than a few seconds in my presence.’

He winced, she was sure of it. But he hid it quickly, glancing away for a moment. He let out a breath, as if gathering the resolve and patience he needed and then looked back to her. There was something in his eyes which she couldn’t distinguish, but his face was tense and guarded. ‘Alright,’ he said, his voice flat. ‘Do you have a complaint you wish to lay before me?’

‘As a matter of fact, I do.’

Jon nodded once. ‘Very well, then. Speak plainly.’

Sansa bristled at his formality. She was his wife, dammit. ‘I intend to.’

His lips twitched with a smile he was keeping at bay, and then he composed himself, and said, ‘I’m listening, my lady.’

Sansa narrowed her eyes. Was he playing a game with her? Keeping up the charade to humour her? Or was he really being this formal with the woman he was wedded to? It was all very odd, but as long as he was listening to her, she would forge ahead. This was the longest conversation he had granted her since the wedding. She wasn’t going to waste it. 

She swallowed and summoned her confidence. She was really about to do it. All those months of angrily imagining what she would say to him if he bothered to listen, how she would beseech him, implore him. What she would say. It was finally here. 

‘I wish to speak to you about…’ Her voice wavered and she took a moment’s pause. He watched her, his eyes giving nothing away. ‘‘Our circumstances.’

He frowned. ‘Our circumstances?’

‘We are married,’ she said, nodding.

His eyes lit with amusement. ‘I remember. I was there.’

Damn him.

‘And yet,’ she argued, her patience waning. ‘It cannot have escaped your notice that we do not…that we have not…’

He raised his eyebrows expectantly, waiting.

Oh Gods, how did she say this?

‘Sansa,’ he urged, not unkindly. ‘Whatever it is you wish to say, by all means -’

‘I wish you to bed me!’ She blurted.

The words hung in the space between them like a cloud of fog and she winced, slamming her mouth shut in case anything else slipped free to later mortify her.

Jon’s eyes widened, his face instantly going red, and she blanched. She had angered him. She was afraid this would happen. He thought she was disgusting. She was his sister, after all. Or at least, he thought of her as one.

She moved forwards a step, with her hand held up beseechingly. ‘I…I did not…I only meant…I…’

She sighed as she watched him, his alarmed eyes flitting about the room as if he would scold himself were they to land anywhere near her. 

‘Jon,’ she implored softly, dropping all pretenses and facades. She’d had enough. No more. ‘I know…I know I am your sister, but -’

‘You are not my sister,’ he bit out angrily.

She flinched. 

What on earth was that all about? 

Was that the reason he didn’t want to touch her? Was he angry that he wasn’t who he had always been led to believe? All this time Sansa had thought his reluctance was down to their former familial bonds. But maybe not. Maybe Jon was furious and bitter about the lies he had been told, about the fact that Sansa’s father had been dishonest with him his entire life. Was he taking it out on her? Was his anger enough to make her undesirable to him? Untouchable?

Her heart sank, pain striking her swiftly and suddenly in the chest, and she gasped softly as it petered outwards throughout her body in waves. ‘Well…’ She said, her bottom lip beginning to wobble and her eyes burning with the threat of tears. ‘No. Maybe not.’ Her voice was small and broken, and Jon’s face instantly fell, regret flashing across his eyes. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Sansa,’ he said, starting forward, before stopping again abruptly. ‘I didn’t…I didn’t mean…’

She watched him, her eyes rapidly filling with tears.

He closed his own eyes at the sight of them and cursed. When he opened them again, there was a new kind of clarity there, an intensity Sansa had never seen before, and it made her heart skip.

‘Sansa, I don’t want you to be my sister. I don’t want to think of you as that,’ he said calmly. ‘Not because of any reason you are surely thinking,’ he added when she opened her mouth to speak. ‘But because I - ’

‘Your Grace, I have the roses you requested for -’

Time stood still.

The boy came to a sputtering stop as he rounded the corner and took stock of the scene before him. And Jon….Jon’s face paled to such an extent he almost looked ill.

Sansa blinked, her brain trying to make sense of what she was seeing.

A servant standing in the doorway to Jon’s room, with a bouquet of blue winter roses in his hands. Winter roses Jon had apparently requested be picked for him.

Sansa’s mouth ran dry and her pulse began to race, her stomach dipping and her heart turning over heavily. What in Seven Hells was happening?

‘Um…’ The boy said uncertainly, breaking the silence like a rock across a still bed of water. ‘Your grace?’

‘Leave us,’ Jon said gently, not taking his eyes off Sansa, a swallow working the muscles in his throat.

The boy did as he was bid, but then stopped halfway to the door, turning back. He did this several times, apparently not able to decide whether he was supposed to leave the roses first. Finally, he sighed and ran forwards, placing the bouquet on the table beside the fire, and then quickly scurried away with his head bowed and his cheeks red with embarrassment.

He closed the door behind him, leaving Jon and Sansa standing alone, the silence smothering them as the wind shrieked furiously outside the windows.

Sansa tried to think of something to say. She opened her mouth several times, before closing it swiftly when words evaded her.

It was Jon. Jon had been leaving the roses. She didn’t understand. How? Why?

He finally sighed, closing his eyes for a moment as his body sagged in defeat. ‘Sansa,’ he said, looking at her again.

The sound of his voice was apparently the jolt needed to bring her own to life, because the second she heard it, her own words tumbled out almost without her control. ‘It was you?’ She locked her eyes onto him, imploring him without words. ‘This whole time?’

He only nodded, slowly and almost apologetically, and she narrowed her eyes in confusion. ‘But…why?’

A soft smile lifted his lips then. ‘I wanted to make you happy.’ Her heart jumped at that. ‘I didn’t know any other way…’

Sansa couldn’t help it. A flash of anger lit her up. ‘You could have talked to me,’ she argued. ‘You could have sat with me, feasted with me. Supped ale with me. Told me about your day and listened while I told you about mine.’ She paused as her emotions came pouring out of her at last, messy and without grace. ‘You could have kept me company and not abandoned me to loneliness.’

He flinched, his face paling once more. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t think…I -’

‘Didn’t think what?’ She asked him, her voice rising with indignation. ‘Didn’t think that I needed you? That I would want your companionship? I have no one else,’ she said, her tears finally falling, as her voice caught and broke. ‘With Arya in the Stormlands and Bran lost to his visions, I…I have nobody. Only you. And you left me all alone. I needed you, Jon. I needed my brother.’

His eyes flared angrily. ‘I am not your brother.’

‘Well, you’re not my husband, either!’ She roared, her fury and heartache finally getting the better of her. ‘At least, you don’t act like it. I knew it would be strange at first, going from what we were to…well, more. But if I’d known agreeing to marry you meant I would lose you completely, I never would have -’

‘How can I be your husband, Sansa?’ He retorted, marching forward, his eyes bright with his own temper. ‘How can I? I would not be able to bed you without…I….I could not touch you without…’

A hole opened up in her chest and a sob ripped from her lips. ‘I knew it,’ she accused in a pained whisper. ‘I knew that was the reason. You’re disgusted by it, aren’t you? You can’t touch me, can’t bed me because -’

‘BECAUSE THEN YOU’LL KNOW I LIKE IT!’

Jon’s bellow shook Sansa’s foundations to the core, and she drew back as the force of it obliterated her senses.

‘W-what?’

Jon’s face had bled of all colour and he was staring at her as if he had just plunged Longclaw through her chest, leaving her to bleed out all over his floor.

He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.

‘You…’ Sansa hedged tentatively, her entire body blazing with heat. ‘You’d like it?’

He winced at her words, and shook his head. ‘I…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said - ‘

‘I think I’d like it too.’

The words were soft and quiet, and it took a moment before Sansa realised they had come from her. 

Jon’s eyes widened as they snapped to her face. He searched her gaze, desperately clamoring for any lie or falsehood in her words, but she was resolute, staring back at him with conviction and confidence. Inside she was trembling, terrified of his reaction, but her eyes held his and refused to let go. ‘What are you saying?’

She sighed. ‘Jon…I know it’s not right, I know we shouldn’t be feeling…’ She trailed off, unsure where to start.

Jon cleared his throat. ‘Feeling what?’

She shook her head, her nervousness suddenly overtaking her. But then Jon was there, right in front of her, lifting her by the chin so that she was looking into his eyes. ‘Feeling what?’ He urged her gently. ‘Tell me.’

Her eyes pooled with eyes. Her heart no longer able to hide the secrets it held, the wealth of feeling she had for him. It was all too much. And now he was here, implying that he felt the same. His words were like a promise that she wasn’t to be scared, that he would catch her if she fell. He would jump with her, holding her hand. ‘Jon, I think I -’

Her words were stolen by his lips, descending and snatching her up before she could say any more. She gasped into his mouth, his lips like a hot brand on hers. The feel of them set a spark trilling through her, blazing her entire body to life. And she knew…knew she would never be the same again. He feasted on her hungrily, as if she was the air he needed to breathe, and she let herself be taken away, lifted high above her body, her heart soaring and ascending like a raven taking flight.

Her pulse raced, her heart thundered and her body melted, sighing in bliss as it weakened in his arms.

He pulled away, panting against her lips, the heat of his breath like a gentle caress. ‘I love you,’ he breathed, finishing her sentence.

Sansa’s heart stopped. She opened her eyes and a tear fell, her breath catching as she saw the affection and warmth in his own gaze. There was no lie there. Only love.

He caressed her cheek and used his thumb to swipe her tear away. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.’

She shook her head, her face crumbling as the emotion broke free. ‘You didn’t. I’m…I’m happy.’

His face lit up with the most glorious smile and Sansa felt a pang in her chest. Gods, she loved him. He was truly beautiful. She had always thought so. Even when they were children. 

‘Truly?’ He implored, happiness flaming in his stunning, grey eyes.

She nodded. ‘I love you, Jon. So much. ’ The words were almost a sob, but Jon didn’t seem to mind. He brought his other hand up until he was cupping both of her cheeks and gazed adoringly into her eyes. She swallowed. ‘And not as a sister or a cousin, but as a…as a wife.’ She sobbed again, but he only smiled.

‘Why are you crying?’

She shook her head. ‘Because it’s wrong.’

‘Why?’

‘Because…because it’s…’ She stopped, not having it in her to argue her point. Because it didn’t feel wrong. It felt more right than anything she had ever known. She wouldn’t give up loving Jon for anything. She didn’t care what anybody else thought or said. It was the truest thing she’d ever felt.

He grinned at her speechlessness and said, ‘Even if it is wrong…you don’t see me running away, do you?’

She shook her head and he tucked a piece of hair gently behind her ear. 

‘Sansa, I care not what anybody else thinks. Only you. That’s all I ever cared about. And I thought…I thought you would be disgusted with me if you knew. That’s why I didn’t say anything before. That’s why I tried to keep my distance so I didn’t give myself away. If I’d known…’

‘I thought you would be disgusted with me. That’s why I didn’t say anything.’

They stared at one another for a moment, and then burst into laughter. Grateful chuckles of relief and delight. 

Then Jon was kissing her again, placing a soft peck to her lips which was over far too quickly. When he pulled away, Sansa found herself chasing after him with her mouth. He chuckled.

‘Still want me to bed you?’ he teased, his voice low and delicious.

Sansa’s face heated and she averted her eyes. ‘Gods, I can’t believe I said that,’ she groaned.

‘I rather enjoyed it,’ he remarked dryly, raising an eyebrow at her. 

She whacked him playfully on the arm, but couldn’t hide her smile. ‘Perhaps we should leave that for another night. When we haven’t been fighting and crying, and -’

‘I never cried,’ he argued. ‘That was you.’

She giggled, and then sobered as she gazed at him, her heart flipping at the affection shining through his eyes. ‘Perhaps I could…have Jeyne move my things in here. Or you could come to the Lord’s chamber with me. It is the biggest.’ She swallowed nervously. ‘And then we could…we could celebrate our first true night together. In the proper way. As man and wife.’

She watched him carefully to guage his reaction. Watched him swallow slowly, watched a soft breath catch in his throat. ‘I look forward to it,’ he said, his words thick with emotion.

Her body began to heat and she pressed her lips together shyly. Everything she wanted was going to happen. She barely knew where to begin in processing it all.

Sansa lifted her hand and placed it over Jon’s chest, her fingers caressing one of the deep cuts carved into his flesh. ‘Thank you for my roses, Jon. They did make me happy.’ She lifted her eyes to look at him. ‘Happier now that I know they came from you.’

‘You’re welcome,’ he said, smiling kindly.

She arched an eyebrow as a thought occurred to her. ‘How did you manage it? I had people watching my door almost the entire day, and they never caught anything unusual.’

His eyes sparkled with mischief, and he chuckled. ‘Well, your handmaiden -’

‘Jeyne!’ Sansa gasped. ‘It was her? She knew all along?!’

‘No,’ he shook his head with a soft laugh. ‘But according to Ser Davos’ new squire, she’s exceptionally easy to distract with flattery.’ He grinned. ‘All it took was a few romantic words to turn her back, and one of the cupbearer boys was able to sneak in without being detected.’

Sansa laughed and shook her head. ‘Unbelievable.’

‘Do you want me to stop leaving them now that you know?’

‘Don’t you dare,’ she teasingly scolded him, and he grinned. She shook her head. ‘Please don’t.’ She paused and bit her lip timidly. ‘I used to like knowing that somebody was thinking of me. And now…now I’ll know you are. And that’s even sweeter.’ 

He plucked up a piece of her loose red hair, twirling it around his finger and whispered, ‘I’m always thinking of you, Sansa.’

She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat, as her heart dipped and soared all at the same time. 

‘So…’ He needled with a smirk, moving forwards as if he could get any closer. ‘Is the Lady satisfied with the outcome of her audience?’

Sansa grinned and reached up, locking her hands at the back of Jon’s neck. ‘Indeed, your Grace. The Lady is exceedingly content with the terms you have set before her.’

He nodded, his own lips lifting with a smile. ‘I am relieved to hear it. Should you have any more complaints - ‘

‘I shall bring them to you immediately.’

Jon moved one of his hands to the belt of her robe and gently tugged. ‘Remember…dress code must be strictly adhered to in the presence of your King. That means no dresses. Only nightgowns. And robes at a push. Although I would not punish you too severely were you to go without it.’

She stifled a laugh. ‘Understood.’

With one more grin, he swooped down. And the last thing Sansa saw before he claimed her lips, was the flash of blue in her periphery. A beautiful bouquet of winter roses, picked especially for her by her King. By her husband. By her Jon. 

Chapter Text

The wind was howling beyond the castle walls, the snow was coming down in soft, light flakes, and Jon’s breath was hovering on the air in small clouds. 

Winter truly was here.

And he loved it.

It may have been cold, the days may have been short and the ground covered in frost and snow, but this was what Jon lived for. Winter was in his blood. The summers had sun and flowers and fresh, green grass. But winter had fires and snow-fights and sledding. It had rosy cheeks and children’s laughter as they played in the snow. It had the ethereal beauty of frost covered windows and winter roses blooming out of the ground. It had cosy nights drinking ale, and steaming pots of stew to warm even the most chilled hands. And most importantly…it had white flakes on ginger hair, and reddened lips stretched into beautiful smiles.

Sansa.

Jon’s thoughts were never far from her, and as he strolled along the walkway surrounding the courtyard, they strayed to her now, drowning out Ser Davos’ words as he informed Jon of some family feud which had recently risen up in the Reach.

He itched to see her, his body and mind restless every minute of the day. They had yet to spend their first true night together as husband and wife. Ever since they had both declared their feelings things had been different…but much the same. Political matters had kept them constantly apart. All they had was longing looks across a crowded hall and sympathetic smiles when one of them was dragged away. Sansa was finally his, really his: to touch, to kiss, to love. And he couldn’t even do anything about it.

It was a cruelty even the Gods could not dream up.

Jon had been kept busy until late into the night and by the time he was done, he hadn’t wanted to wake Sansa. Not for something he wanted to take his time with, something he wanted to do right. He didn’t want to steal a few moments to make love to his wife. He wanted to give her the whole night. 

And tonight was that night.

Jon had grown tired of never getting his fill of his new bride, grown frustrated with the minor glimpses of her he was afforded around the castle. There was a constant gulf between them, a gulf of meetings and small councils and petitions and complaints. 

No more. Tonight Jon was building a bridge to his wife, and nothing was going to stop him from crossing it until she was in his arms. Not Ser Davos, not his Lords, not a petty squabble between houses in the South. 

‘Apparently, one of them had a son who took off with one of the other’s daughters,’ his Hand was saying in his gruff Flea-Bottom accent.

But Jon wasn’t listening. Because Sansa was playing with the children.

He’d heard her laughter first, the sound of it lighting his blood on fire, and sure enough, as soon as he had cast his eyes about they had landed on the sight of her hair, like a flame on snow, in the middle of the frost covered courtyard.

He felt his heart flip at the sight and he instantly moved closer, Ser Davos following him as he continued to drone on and Jon’s eyes remained fixed to the red-headed beauty he could now call his, in every sense of the word. 

She was sparring with a little Winter town girl. Both of them pretending to duel with tiny wooden swords. Gods, she’s beautiful, Jon thought to himself. Her kind smiles and encouraging words drawing the eye of every person standing about.

All except Maester Wolken, who was standing off to the side, looking cold and impatient. Jon grinned. Sansa had obviously been making her way across the courtyard with the Maester, tending to important matters, when she had been distracted by the children sparring and decided to join in. 

The little girl, a tiny thing with a long, brunette braid slung across her shoulder, was the only one among a group of boys: all of them children from the town who came to the castle a few times a week to learn swordplay and archery with Ser Podrick Payne, Winterfell’s Master at Arms.

Jon knew from watching the children before that the boys, being boys, never wanted to spar with the girls. And Jon just knew that Sansa had seen this little one standing lonely without a partner and decided to come to her aid.

His entire body warmed at the thought, despite the winter chill, and the sight made his heart thump wildly in his chest. She was so kind, so warm, so gentle. He could imagine she would be a great mother someday. A mother to their children.

The thought filled Jon with a kind of longing and need so great that it almost took his breath away.

Tonight couldn’t come soon enough.


‘Perhaps I should start putting your hair up, m’lady,’ Jeyne huffed as she ripped a brush through Sansa’s hair. ‘Twist it into a braid or something of the like. That way the snow would not knot it so badly.’

‘No,’ Sansa said, as she sat at her vanity table in her nightgown and glanced at her reflection in the mirror across from her. ‘I like my hair down.’

Jon likes my hair down, is what she wanted to say. He never stops touching it when we’re together.

Which wasn’t often. Not recently. Sansa had barely seen her husband since their wedding. And while before it was from forced distance of his own making, now it was matters out of their control which kept them apart. Matters relating to the rule of their kingdom. 

They had not yet managed to spend the night together which they had planned to do after they revealed their feelings to one another. And Sansa had long since stopped waiting up until ridiculous hours and watching the door in case he stopped by when his work was done. 

He never came to her. And she had learnt not to expect it.

She sighed and picked up the piece of embroidery she had been working on. It was a little wolf sigil she thought she might later sew onto a blanket of some kind. She hadn’t meant to start it, it had been nothing more than a happy accident. She had simply been taking a little respite from business matters and found herself stitching the outline of it onto a piece of white linen. Once she’d realised what she was doing, she had laughed at herself. It was too soon for that. She and Jon had not even been together in that way yet, and she wasn’t even sure if he would want to start a family straight away. They were both very busy, of course. 

But she hadn’t stopped.

No. She had had this powerful desire to keep going, to craft what would become a symbol for all her most ingrained, strongly-held desires. A promise, almost.

She wanted to be a mother. So badly it almost hurt. But not just that…she wanted to be a mother to Jon’s child.

A lump got stuck in her throat as emotion threatened to overwhelm her at the thought. A tiny little babe she could hold in her arms. Fingers and toes and chubby little cheeks. Blue Tully eyes like Sansa, and thick black hair the same as Jon’s.

Sansa breathed deeply and cleared her throat, blinking quickly so that no tears fell. Jeyne would grow suspicious and begin asking questions, and Sansa didn’t want that. She and Jon had agreed to keep the change in their relationship quiet. It would be odd for the Lords, for the servants. To see the difference and understand it. It would take time. And so Jon had suggested that they ease into it. Appear closer over time until the sight was as natural to the courtiers as breathing. It would be a regular sight before they’d even known what had happened. Like a knife in the dark.

A touch here, a laugh there. A peck on the cheek, and then on the lips.

It would grow over time. Like her Lady Mother used to say: stone by stone.

Behind closed doors, however…Jon had promised that he would be a true husband to her when they were alone. 

Not that they had had the chance to put it to the test yet.

‘Well,’ Jeyne grumbled. ‘That’s the best I can do with it, I think.’

‘It’s fine,’ Sansa said without looking. Honestly, it hardly mattered what her hair looked like. She wasn’t expecting company tonight. Unfortunately. ‘You can go, Jeyne. It’s alright.’ She sent a kind smile to her handmaiden through the mirror and then went back to her stitching.

Jeyne had been gone but 10 minutes when there came a knock at her door. 

Sansa frowned and looked around her. Had she forgotten something? Her supper had all been cleared away and her chamber pot recently changed. She couldn’t imagine what would bring the girl scurrying back to her room.

Marching to the door, Sansa swung it open without hesitation. ‘Jeyne, what is -?’

But it wasn’t Jeyne.

It was Jon.

Her husband.

Sansa’s words got caught in her throat and her pulse began to race as her body heated. The sight of him always did that to her. Especially when she was starved of it, when she craved it like water.

His eyes lit the moment he saw her and his lips stretched into a slow smile. Her insides dipped gloriously at that. The boy knew how to smile. 

‘Jon,’ she breathed.

‘Sansa.’ He was still grinning, his eyes raking her from head to toe. And she froze. She was in nothing but her nightdress. Assuming it was Jeyne at the door, she hadn’t bothered to don her robe. And now she was distinctly aware of her near nakedness. The material of her dress was thin and the curves and lines of her were almost certainly visible in the soft light from her dwindling fire and candles.

Sansa’s instinct was to cover up. And her hands twitched with the effort to do just that…but then she stopped herself.

This was her husband. This was Jon.

She wanted to have his children, share his bed. She was his. And he was hers. She shouldn’t be afraid. Or self conscious. She couldn’t be. Not if she was going to truly be a wife to him. She wanted to give him all of her. She didn’t want to hide.

So instead of reaching up and shielding the parts of herself she was nervous he would see, she moved forward and reached out her hand, taking his and pulling him gently into the room.

Jon’s grin faltered as he allowed himself to be led.

Sansa closed the door behind them and returned to her place in front of him, assessing his face as she summoned her courage and placed a hand gently above his heart.

Then she leaned in and kissed him. Sweetly and softly on the lips. It was Hello. It was I missed you. 

She let the feel of his lips sink deep into her bones and sighed happily, pulling away with her eyes closed. When she finally opened them with a drunk smile on her face, her breath caught. Jon’s gaze was hooded, heated and he was looking at her like he wanted to swallow her whole.

Sansa gulped, but before she could do anything else he was a breath away from her, with one hand on her back and the other in her hair.

‘Come here, woman,’ he growled and pulled her to him, crushing his lips to hers.

There was nothing sweet or soft about this kiss. This was You’re mine, this was Get naked now. This said…I have to have you.

He kissed her until her lips were swollen and she was gasping for breath and when he pulled back they were both panting.

Sansa lifted her fingers to her lips in a daze. With a dizzy smile, she stammered out a greeting. ‘H-hi.’

He grinned and then removed the hand from the small of her back. It was only in this moment that she realised there was something in it. Something he brought up and held before her with a flourish and a wink. 

A winter rose.

‘Hi,’ he echoed with a roguish smile.

Sansa grinned, bright and wide, as her heart filled with light, and she took the flower gratefully, quickly turning and rushing to the window to put it among the others in the vase. She heard Jon chuckle from behind her and then the clinking of wine being poured.

‘Do you want some?’

‘Please,’ Sansa replied, shuffling the roses around in their bouquet. 

A moment later she felt a tap on her shoulder, and she turned to see him holding a filled cup out to her. She took it with a smile and clinked the glass he was holding with a raised eyebrow. 

They took simultaneous gulps, not taking their eyes off one another, and then Jon asked, ‘How was your day?’

Sansa nodded as she swallowed. ‘Good. How was yours?’

His eyes turned heated and Sansa just about melted into a puddle right then and there. ‘Long.’

‘Oh.’

He smiled and then turned and walked further into the room. ‘I hope I didn’t disturb you. You weren’t readying for bed were you?’

‘No. I was just stitching.’ Sansa’s eyes widened at the memory, flying to her work on the vanity table. She scurried over and quickly hid it among other things, keeping one eye on Jon to make sure he didn’t see. 

‘I’m glad,’ he said, and the nervous quiver in his voice made Sansa stand to attention.

Jon was glancing shyly around the room, one hand gripping his wine glass and the other rubbing the back of his neck. He swallowed a few times as his cheeks reddened and Sansa moved forwards out of curiosity.

‘Jon…?’

He looked up at the sound of her voice, his breath catching at the sight of her, as if he’d forgotten she was there. Or was seeing her for the first time. Or…seeing something in her he hadn’t realised until this moment.

He swallowed again. ‘Sansa, I…’

‘What is it?’ She asked with a nervous laugh.

‘I thought we might…I mean to say…that if you want to…I thought perhaps we could…’

Realisation dawned as he trailed off, and Sansa felt her entire body erupt into flames. A swirl of nerves, anticipation and fear exploded inside of her and she found herself at a loss for words.

‘Oh! Right!’

His eyes snapped to hers, obviously startled by her alarmed tone. ‘If you don’t want to -’

‘No!’ She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, and when she opened them she fixed him with a soft, kind smile. ‘I mean…no, I do.’ She nodded towards him shyly. ‘Want to.’ She shrugged sheepishly and added, ‘I was just not expecting you tonight, that’s all.’

He smiled at that, lopsided and boyish. ‘I can tell.’ And when she frowned he jerked his head towards her. ‘Your hair.’

Sansa gasped, mortification flooding her as she tried to cover her entire head of hair with one hand. ‘Oh Gods!’ But Jon only laughed, his eyes filling with amused affection. ‘It was the snow! Jeyne tried to untangle it, but gave up. She insisted nothing could be done for it.’

Jon moved forward, his laughter dying as the mirth in his eyes was replaced with something far more delicious, and he gently removed her hand, threading the fingers through his own. ‘I like it,’ he said, voice thick with desire, as his eyes moved across her hair and face. ‘I like you wild.’

Everything inside Sansa turned to pudding and a gargle of sounds fell out of her mouth. She had no idea if they were words or just noises. But she was too distracted to care. Too distracted by the way her blood was boiling beneath her skin, the way her stomach was dipping and by the sight of his mouth so close to hers. Just looking at his lips made her own tingle in remembrance, and she couldn’t help but think of all the other things he could do with them.

‘Sansa.’

Jon’s amused voice cut into her daze.

‘Hmm?’ She asked without taking her eyes off his lips. 

He grinned. Wide and smug. She knew this because…well, she was still staring at his lips.

At least she was until his fingers gently took hold of her chin. He lifted her face until she was looking in his eyes and she stilled, getting lost in their seemingly bottomless, grey depths.

‘Sansa,’ he repeated, his tone sober and serious now. ‘Do you really want this? Now? Tonight? Because we don’t have to. Not until you’re ready.’

His words reminded her of something her first husband, Lord Tyrion, had said to her on their wedding night all those years ago. It felt like a lifetime ago now. She supposed it was, in a way. ‘I won’t share your bed. Not until you want me to,’ he’d promised her. Tyrion was just as kind as Jon, but in truth….she hadn’t been ready. She wasn’t sure if she ever would have been because…Tyrion wasn’t her love. He didn’t have her heart. But Jon…Jon wasn’t just her heart. He was her everything. She wanted to give herself to him. She was ready. She thought she might have always been ready for Jon. 

If he had been her first husband instead of Tyrion, if he had been her first betrothed instead of Joffrey…how different things might have been. 

She could have been this happy the whole time.

But there was no use dwelling on the past. Jon was hers now. She was his. And she was ready.

Her heart filled with warmth at his tenderness and she smiled softly, placing a hand on his face. ‘I want this, Jon,’ she told him, trying to make her words certain and sure to reassure him. ‘I want you.’

His eyes flared and he moved forwards, taking her lips again in a firm kiss which stopped just short of hungry. When he pulled back he smiled gently. ‘We’ll go slow. Alright?’

She swallowed and nodded, her nerves beginning to supersede her anticipation a little. She knew what to expect, of course. But the only person she had ever been with was Ramsay. He was her last. And he was a monster. All she knew of being bedded was pain and humiliation. What was it like to be truly loved by a man? She felt almost untouched again. In a way….she was. She had never ‘made love’ before. It seemed to her to be a whole different world to what Ramsay did to her.

Jon must have seen the nervousness in her eyes because he took her by the hand and led her to the bed, gently pushing her by the shoulder until she was sitting at the foot of it. He then went to pick up her wine cup from where she had left it on the vanity and went about refilling it. When he returned to her, he handed back the cup and sat beside her. After that, they sipped in comfortable silence. The only sounds the crackling of the fire and the wind outside the castle walls.

‘I saw you today,’ Jon finally said after several quiet moments. When Sansa looked to him, he explained. ‘In the courtyard with the children.’

Sansa smiled at the memory. ‘Those ghastly boys were being awful to that poor girl. I had to rescue her.’

Jon wrinkled his nose. ‘Ghastly? I’m sure they’re not all bad.’

‘They are,’ Sansa argued. ‘I’ve seen them before. They think swordplay and archery is a boyish pursuit and they swan around like peacocks, showing off for the whole lesson. Poor Pod gets ever so flustered sometimes.’ She shot him a look, full of teasing warmth. ‘They remind me of you and Robb.’

Jon scoffed. ‘I was never like that.’ Sansa only laughed and sipped more wine. ‘I wasn’t!’ He made a face, and grumbled, ‘Robb maybe. But not me.’

Sansa just laughed again, and Jon rolled his eyes. ‘Fine. We might have been ghastly. But we were young, we didn’t know any better. And it wasn’t our fault. The girls in the songs never fought. They were always being rescued by knights and heroes. Like Prince Aemon the Dragonknight and Florian the Fool. So we had to practice.’ He nudged her gently with a wink. ‘There were maidens to save.’

Sansa’s smile grew. ‘I forgot you used to play that.’ She sighed fondly. ‘Prince Aemon and Florian the Fool. Those were some of my favourite stories when I was little.’

‘I hope our sons play at that when they’re old enough,’ Jon said wistfully as he stared off into the fire at the other end of the room.

Sansa’s heart lurched. Our sons. That was the first time he’d mentioned children. She had thought she’d been the only one thinking about it. But…

‘You…you think about that stuff?’

He looked back at her as if talking about this was of no consequence, wasn’t the life altering event it was for her. Was the idea so natural to him that it didn’t warrant a second thought? Sansa warmed all over.

‘Of course,’ Jon said, so easily that she thought she might be seconds away from bursting into tears.

She straightened with a watery smile and said, ‘What…what else do you think about?’

Jon didn’t miss a beat. ‘Well, I think I’d like four boys.’

Sansa let out a startled laugh at that, thick with emotion and the tears filling her eyes. ‘Four?!’

‘Well, yes. It has to be four.’

‘Why?’

He frowned at her as if the question was ridiculous. ‘For the names, of course.’

A small breath escaped her. ‘You’ve thought of the names?’ She asked him in nothing more than a whisper.

He nodded. ‘Robb, Rickon, Eddard and Benjen.’

Sansa’s heart felt as if it was going to burst, and it took her a moment to reply. ‘I…’ She swallowed and blinked away her tears. ‘I think those are all wonderful names.’

He smiled, clearly pleased.

‘But,’ she argued, sobering a little. ‘I’m not sure we can do four.’

He narrowed his eyes. ‘Why not?’

‘Well, me and Arya were always outnumbered by you boys when we were growing up. So, I always imagined if I ever had children, I’d readdress the balance a little.’ She smiled at Jon’s confusion, and added, ‘I want more girls than boys. It’s time for us to rule the Stark roost for a while...so as soon as the girls outnumber the boys, I think we should stop.' She grinned then, teasing him. ‘Our daughters will be the Queens of the nursery, and the boys their loyal subjects.’

‘But…but…’ He floundered, searching around the room as if he would find his argument on the floor somewhere. ‘We have to have four boys!’

‘Why?’ Sansa laughed. He looked as if she’d just informed him that the sky was falling. 

‘Because of the names!’

Sansa sighed. ‘The names are beautiful, Jon. But we don’t have to use all of them.’

‘We do,’ he insisted stubbornly, like a child who was being refused treats. 

She frowned, clearly getting nowhere. ‘Well…I’m sorry, Jon. But I want more girls than boys. I insist.’

He huffed, and then stared at her, assessing her as if sizing her up, like a fortress he was trying to figure out how to scale and attack. ‘Alright,’ he finally said. ‘You want more girls? Then we will.’ He nodded and folded his arms, determined. ‘Four boys. Five girls.’

Sansa scoffed, choking on air. ‘What?!’

‘It’s the perfect compromise,’ he reasoned breezily.

Sansa laughed without humour and shot to her feet. ‘Five girls?! And four boys?!’

He nodded, his eyebrows knitting together in bewilderment at her reaction. ‘You want more girls than boys. That’s what you said.’

‘Yes,’ she argued, flustered now. ‘But I expected you to go lower, not even it out.’

He stood, indignant. ‘Why? What’s wrong with that?’

‘Jon,’ she said evenly, scolding him with her words.

He merely shrugged. ‘What?’

‘I’m not having 9 children!’

He reared back as if she’d struck him. ‘Why in Seven Hells not?’

She scoffed again. ‘Have you ever seen a baby being born?’

He straightened at that, smug victory flashing in his eyes. ‘I have, actually. Have you?’

Sansa stilled at his challenge. ‘Well…no, not…um…no.’ He grinned and she wanted to smack it off his lips. ‘But I have intimate knowledge of exactly where they come from and how it happens.’ 

‘As do I.’

She shot him a look and he instantly swallowed, relenting. ‘Well…perhaps not intimate knowledge, but…’

Sansa sighed and watched him for a moment, before her lips curled into a devious smirk, an idea flickering to life inside of her. Moving forwards, she taunted him. ‘You’re right, Jon. We should have nine children.’

His eyed widened, but then narrowed suspiciously as he watched her approach. ‘We should?’

She nodded, placing her hand on his heart and fingering the leather of his vest teasingly. ‘But in that case…perhaps we should send an emissary to the East. Asshai or Volantis, maybe?’

His eyebrow rose. ‘The East?’

Sansa nodded, nonplussed to the cautiousness and confusion in his gaze, and continued. ‘Well, of course. We’ll be needing a sorceress of some kind. Or a Priestess, who can wield some dark and ancient magic?’

Jon gulped, his eyes flashing with uneasiness. ‘M-magic?’

Sansa fought a smile and trailed her fingers up to his hair, twisting one of his luscious locks tantalizingly around her finger. ‘Why, yes. There may be some mystical, old forces which could transfer the responsibility to you.’

He drew back a little, his lip curling and his eyes flaring in panic. ‘Responsibility?’

Sansa kept up the charade, crinkling her brow as if she was confused. ‘Well, yes, Jon. If you’re determined that we have nine children, I expect you’ll be wanting to birth them.’ Then she plastered a scandalised frown on her face and pulled away. ‘Clearly you can’t be expecting me to do all the hard work.’ She arched her eyebrow slowly. ‘The hard, slow, excruciatingly painful work?’

Jon simply stared at her, her words sinking in. Sansa watched it all with smug satisfaction, biting her lip to hold back her smile. 

Finally, after several moments, he swallowed, his face reddening and his eyes unfocused. ‘Um…well…’ He cleared his throat. ‘Perhaps…perhaps three girls and three boys?’ He looked to Sansa, a question in his eyes. ‘Equal footing all around?’

Sansa smiled, slow and soft. ‘I think that’s an exceedingly reasonable compromise, husband.’

His eyes flashed with relief and then he smiled at her, affection blazing on his features. ‘Husband,’ he murmured, reaching for her. ‘I like that.’ He brushed a piece of hair away from her face and said, ‘Besides, I have the perfect three names for our little girls.’

‘You do?’ Sansa asked in surprise. He really had thought of everything.

He nodded, searching her face. ‘Lyanna, for my mother.’ He paused, as if he needed a moment to process some unnamed emotion. ‘And then I was thinking…perhaps a good Northern name. Like Alys or Dacey.’ He stopped again, fixing her with a look. ‘And also…Catelyn, after your mother.’ Sansa sucked in a breath as her heart stopped. ‘Little Cat,’ he breathed, his hand moving to cup her cheek.

Sansa’s heart swelled and she felt tears building in her eyes. She knew she always wanted to name one of her daughters after her mother. It was important to her. But she also knew that Jon’s past with the Lady Catelyn was complicated and rife with tension. She hadn’t been sure whether he would want that daily reminder of such a hard time in his life. He was putting her above his own pain.

She sniffled as a single tear fell. ‘Th-thank you.’

He smiled warmly and wiped her tear away with his thumb. ‘It means a lot to you,’ he said simply. As if that was all that needed to be said. All that mattered.

Sansa drew in a deep breath and said, ‘And…maybe after a few years. When the children are all older and off on their own pursuits, maybe…maybe we can try again…for a little baby Benjen.’

Jon laughed, letting out a relieved breath and pulled her towards him. ‘I love you,’ he said. And then his lips were on hers, every ounce of feeling from each of them pouring into the kiss, saying everything they couldn’t with words. 

The kiss was gentle at first, tender and emotional, but then…then it grew hotter, deeper, wetter. Tongues touching and tangling for the first time. They had never gone this far. Sansa gasped into Jon’s mouth, her breath completely taken away by him as he plundered and claimed her.

She pulled away panting, torn between her desire for him and her need to breathe, and he looked at her with blazing eyes, assessing her as panic began to encroach on his passion. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, his fingers sinking into her hair. ‘Was that too much? Too rough?’

Sansa stared at him, at the concern in his eyes, despite the heat of the moment. ‘No,’ she shook her head with a smile. But I love you for asking. ‘Come here,’ she said, pulling him back, her desperation and longing overwhelming her. She needed to be close to him. It was the only way to heal this ache, fill this hole inside of her. She was no longer scared. Only hungry. He loved her. That was all she needed to know. That fact alone breathed life into her, a balm on all her past hurt. 

He stayed firm, the concern still etched into the lines of his face. ‘But -’

‘Shut up, Jon,’ she breathed, a second before she took his lips. 

She feasted on him the way he always did with her, taking the lead, pouring everything she felt into the way she kissed him. He stilled at first, taken off guard by her ferociousness. It was clear he hadn’t expected her to be so forward. But then he relaxed, melting into her arms and pulling her closer with a growl. He matched her kisses with his own. And Sansa distantly became aware of him moving her towards the bed. No sooner did she feel the edge of it against the backs of her knees than she was falling backwards, landing with a soft thump. Jon followed her, staying connected to her the entire time. He didn’t break the kiss for one moment, not when he re-positioned himself between her legs, not when he placed his hands underneath her arms and lifted her higher until they were resting on the pillows. 

This was happening. It was really happening. Sansa should have been scared. Nervous. She had been waiting for this for so long, after all. Wanting it. Building it up and up inside her mind. But oddly…she wasn’t. This felt inevitable. Natural. As normal and familiar to her as brushing her hair or breathing. She and Jon were meant to be together. This was…fate. It felt like two shapes being slotted together with a satisfying click, the sound of it echoing throughout her mind and body and filling her with a sense of completeness. She had never felt so at peace.

Her hands moved absently as she kissed him, the only sounds the crackling of the fire, the howling of the wind and their pants and soft moans as they drank from one another. She fiddled with his leather vest, struggling with the material. Jon seemed to sense this because he quickly moved to help her, and before she knew it, it was off, his undershirt following, both of them being thrown to the floor without care.

Only then did Sansa break away from the kiss, casting her eyes downwards towards the scars on his chest. She heard Jon swallow and glanced towards him, melting at the nervousness in his eyes. She caressed them gently, following the curves of the deep cuts with the tips of her fingers. She felt Jon shudder and then she leaned down and forward, planting a soft, light kiss on each one. She loved every part of him, and she wanted him to know it. She knew he was uneasy about his scars, uncomfortable with talking about his experience. But he didn’t have to hide from her. Sansa loved Jon. She loved his broken body and his painful past. It was all apart of him. And she loved him.

Her hands were suddenly snatched up, however, and she was pulled back, plastered to the bed with him hovering over her and her wrists fixed to her sides. She looked up at him, into his blazing eyes. And for one, small moment, she thought she had angered him. But then she recognised the heat in his gaze, the flare of desire. And she had just a moment to let out a soft gasp before he swooped down and latched his lips onto her neck. 

She whimpered as his mouth fluttered down her skin, sending tingles and shivers straight down to her toes. Her whole body flared with heat and she writhed beneath him restlessly. Wanting to touch him, she ran her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, stroking him gently up and down his back. One of his own hands began trailing up her leg, moving to the inside of her thigh. Goosebumps broke out all across her skin and she gasped, the tender crawl of his fingers sending a jolt right to the very center of her. The higher his fingers moved, the hotter her blood boiled and the harder she throbbed. Her breath coming out in short spurts. 

And then he stopped, his fingers gently caressing the crease where her thigh met her hip and he pulled away from her neck, staring down at her. The lust in his eyes was flecked with concern. With a question. She swallowed and nodded frantically, desperate for him to continue, to give her the relief she was aching for. She felt unfinished with him just stalling like this. She needed him to carry on, to see it through. Tie it all together. 

He smiled in response, slow and seductive, and then his hand moved quickly, cupping her between her legs. She gasped and jerked, the heel of his hand pressing and shooting waves of pleasure through her. He twisted it and kneaded it, applying pressure and then taking it away. And then he took his finger, slowly trailing it up her core. She was wet. She could tell because his digit glided so easily through her folds, making her tremble and shiver. She only knew what this was, what it meant, because she had heard the maids gossiping and giggling about such things. It wasn’t like she had ever experienced it before. With Ramsay she had never been excited, never wanted it. He had never made her feel good. Every time he’d taken her it had been forceful, hard and rough. Painful. But for Jon…she was shaking with anticipation, her body softening and melting for him, welcoming his touch. Craving it. 

He did this a few times, and then she felt a little pressure as he pushed his finger inside of her. There was a bit of a burn, a moment of discomfort. She hadn’t done anything like this for a long time. But then her body eased around him, and she relaxed, feeling full and complete. The pressure was nice. And then he crooked his finger inwards and started pulling it in and out…and she cried out, jack-knifing off the bed. The way he was rubbing inside her sent jolts of pleasure crackling throughout her whole body. Like sparks from a fire. The flame itself was where his hand was…and the pressure was building and building, growing hotter and hotter, until she knew it would explode into an inferno. It was only a matter of time. 

‘Sansa,’ he breathed, his brow bunched in concentration. He was taking this seriously, she realised. Putting every ounce of effort he could into making her feel good. He gazed down at her. ‘I need to kiss you.’

She smiled, wanting to feel his lips, and moved up towards his mouth.

But then he was gone, and so was his hand. Her body screamed in disappointment as he moved away…but she had no time to think on it. Because he quickly pulled her nightdress up, exposing her naked body to the air. She gasped, fighting the urge to cover herself, as the cold draught in the room hit her skin, and he pulled the soft, silky material up and over her head. It disappeared over the side of the bed with his own clothes. And then he gazed down at her…his eyes widening and raking over her slowly, as if he really wanted to take his time.

She heated under his appraisal, equal parts melting at the affection and awe in his eyes, and then trembling as it turned to blatant hunger. When his eyes dropped to the area between her legs, the part of her she knew was wet and glistening for him, he licked his lips. Sansa’s breath got caught in her throat and her heart began to beat like crazy, her chest rising and falling, the pink tips of her small breasts standing to attention. Jon looked at her and something passed between them, like there was a thread tying them together and whatever he felt, so did she. She knew what he was feeling: his hunger, his need. She smiled, soft, and his eyes glimmered.

He leaned down, one hand on each side of her head, and he pecked at her lips with a soft kiss. Before she could get too into it, however, he moved away, lowering his head to take one of her nipples into his mouth. He sucked and licked, swirling his tongue around the hardened peak, and Sansa gasped, her hands gripping the sheet beneath her and her legs twisting restlessly on either side of his hips. He moved to the other one, giving it the same attention, getting them both just wet and hard enough…before pulling away. He locked eyes with Sansa just once, only for a second. And she whimpered at what she there, the spark of heat. 

Then he was gone, gripping her thighs and widening her legs so that he could fit between them. She glanced down at him, confused…but then cried out and arched her back, throwing her head back onto her pillows, as he took his tongue and licked up the entire length of her.

‘Jon!’

He flattened her back down to the bed with his hands and then was on her again, latching onto her with his mouth and sucking. 

Sansa moaned, loud and long, and let her head fall to the side as the pleasure rolled over her, her legs relaxing and falling open even wider. 

He was licking her now, alternating between that and sucking, nibbling and biting. Completely worshiping her with his mouth. And she was at a loss, absolutely at his mercy. Helpless. Simply laying there and taking it. Letting the feel of what he was doing slide over her like the softest blanket.

She didn't know what this was. Had never heard the maids talking about it. It was a kiss...of a kind. But it was also so much more. Was this what all the married ladies did with their husbands? The queens with their kings? Was this what the serving girls did with their sweethearts whenever they managed to steal a few moments in the dead of night? Sansa felt like she had entered a world which before had been completely hidden from her, closed off. She had tried to see in through the windows, stretching on her toes to glimpse over the ledge. But it was no use. She had remained blind to this...to the pleasures of the flesh they all spoke of, wrote songs about, fought wars for. 

But she knew now. The door had been unlocked for her, open to her greedy eyes and hands, allowing her the time and space to savour every treasure she could get her hands on.

And...she finally understood.

It was an odd feeling. As though she was aware of every single inch of her body, and yet almost as if she wasn’t even in it anymore. Floating up above the bed, as the pleasure lifted her higher and higher, her head clouded in a dreamy haze of desire. Her eyes glazed over and she let them flutter closed, everything in her focused on his mouth and tongue. 

That tension inside her built, growing bigger and bigger, hotter and hotter, until she thought she was going to snap, break apart and shatter into a thousand tiny pieces. She gripped the sheets again, her hips moving up and down as Jon’s mouth grew more frantic. Over and over, higher and higher, faster and faster, panting and gasping…

And then she shattered. Crying out and grasping the sheets, as she stilled and squeezed her eyes shut. The pleasure rolled over her body in waves, crashing into her and throwing her up, tossing her around like a leaf caught in the wind. Jon just kept at it throughout it all, kept his mouth on her, kept ‘kissing her’ as he promised.

Slowly, the pleasure began to fade, Sansa’s hips fell back to the bed, her grip on the sheets loosened and her breathing evened out. Only then did Jon take his mouth away, looking up at her as she gazed down. His lips were glistening and red, his cheeks pink with exertion and his eyes completely clouded in desire. They stared at one another for a moment, the truth of what they’d just done passing between them.

‘That was some kiss,’ Sansa finally managed to croak.

Jon laughed, the sound somewhat pained, and then he lifted her leg, placing a soft kiss to her calf as he held her eyes. She stared as he stood, watching her from the foot of the bed as his hands moved to his belt and he began to unfasten it. He held her eyes the entire time and her blood began to heat at the promise in his actions. He dropped the belt to the floor and made a start on his trousers, quickly pulling them down his legs, letting them drop and then kicking them off.

She stopped and stared, stunned at the sight of him. She had seen a naked man before. She had seen her former husband, Ramsay, many times. But Jon was something else. Jon was hers and he loved her. And that made him far more handsome, more beautiful. He was strong and sculpted everywhere, even in those places she didn’t normally see. And she blushed as her mouth ran dry. 

She hoped she wasn’t a disappointment to him. 

With a shaky hand, she reached out for him, beckoning him back. He smiled and returned to her, fitting back inside her legs and placing a soft kiss on her lips. Their whole bodies were aligned and touching now, her breasts rubbing up against the course hairs of his chest. 

She could feel him, hard and ready against her inner thigh. But when she reached down to take him in her hand, he stopped her, grabbing it and folding it into his.

‘No,’ he said gently, kissing the palm of her hand.

‘But…I want to…’

He shook his head and kissed her quick. ‘This isn’t about me,’ he breathed against her lips. ‘This is about you. All about you.’ He drew back to look in her eyes. ‘Your last bedding was the stuff of nightmares. This isn’t going to be like that. I’m going to worship you, make you feel good.’

She bit her lip shyly. ‘Touching you would make me feel good.’

He chuckled. ‘Maybe. I’m sure it would feel good for me too. But…’ He moved to line himself up with her body, probing her entrance. She stilled, her past experiences flashing back to her at the familiar feeling. She didn’t mean to, but it was a natural reflex and she tensed. Jon sensed it and kissed the tip of her nose affectionately. ‘But this needs to be all about you. No distractions. I want there to be no doubt in your mind that I’m going to take care of you.’

Sansa’s heart expanded and her eyes pooled with tears.

‘I know you will,’ she whispered.

He smiled, the action crinkling the corners of his eyes, and lowered his head until his forehead was resting against hers. ‘I know you don’t always want me to protect you. I know it makes you feel coddled and talked over. I know it makes you feel like a child. You’re not a child, Sansa. I know that. You’re the Lady of Winterfell. The Wardeness of the North. My Queen.’ He paused and drew in a breath. ‘So I won’t promise to protect you. But I will promise you this…’ He pulled away and gazed lovingly into her eyes, the sincerity shining through. ‘I’ll always stand at your side. Not to protect you. But to support you. And you will always, always, be safe with me’

Sansa’s heart burst with emotion and the tears fell at the same time, a sob catching in her throat. She gave him a watery smile. ‘I know, Jon.’ She cupped his cheek. ‘You’re always safe with me too.’

He laughed and leaned down, hovering above her lips. ‘I love you, Sansa.’

She sniffled. ‘I love you, too.’

He kissed her once, soft and slow. ‘Are you ready?’

‘Always.’

His eyes warmed and then he began pushing inside her. Sansa gasped and jerked, the burning and stretching overwhelming at first. Her hands flew to his upper arms and she held on for dear life, folding her bottom lip between her teeth as he seated himself deep inside. He stilled once he was all the way in and they both took a moment, breathing deeply and taking stock. He searched her face. ‘Alright?’

She nodded, even though the strange discomfort was making her eyes water. Blinking quickly, she swallowed and said, ‘Y-yes.’

He smiled with a swallow, his body trembling with the effort to reign himself in, before swooping down and kissing her, slow and leisurely, taking his time. Sansa got so lost in the gentle way he was treasuring her lips that she barely noticed when he began moving. And by the time she did, her body had already relaxed around him, growing used to the foreign feeling of him inside her. All she could feel now was the familiar tug and rubbing of her inner walls, the way she had felt when his finger was inside of her, only stronger, greater, more intense. And just like before, the tension inside of her began to gradually build, as waves of pleasure rolled over her with every thrust. 

Jon groaned into her mouth and picked up his pace, pulling back for a moment. Sansa gazed up at him, marveling at the utter pleasure on his face. His eyes were shut, his features stretched taut in ecstasy and a light sheen of perspiration lined his brow.

Sansa’s heart thudded and then turned over, spiking her with a shot of emotion.

He was enjoying this. Enjoying her. 

Tears began to well in her eyes as she laid there, letting him take pleasure in her, holding nothing back as his hips moved faster and faster and he pounded into her.

Ramsay had done so much to her. So many horrible things. She felt broken for a time. Destroyed. She wasn’t sure if she was irreparable. Not until this very moment. Not until she looked into Jon’s face, witnessed the way he reacted to her, as if her body was the most wonderful thing he had ever touched, as if the feel of her was like magic. 

She was so preoccupied with just watching him, feeling the emotion of it…that her own pleasure snuck up on her, taking her over suddenly. She cried out and tightened her hold on Jon’s arms, riding the wave and letting it take her over.

A moment later he stilled, squeezing his eyes tighter and groaning as he shuddered and released himself inside of her.

They held one another, trembling in each other’s arms as the pleasure petered out and the flame shrunk back to sparks and kindling. Sweat slicked their bodies and their breaths slowed, mixing together as their hearts relaxed and evened.

After a moment, Jon pulled back and gazed down at his wife, searching her face, his eyes light with affection. She smiled back at him, overwhelmed and blissful with satisfaction. 

They didn’t say anything. They didn’t need to. They didn’t need words to know what the other was thinking or feeling. There was that thread between them, always connected, always tugging them together. And it pulled him to her now, closer and closer until their lips met and she melted into his embrace, feeling happy and loved and safe.


A long time later, Jon laid awake, holding his wife.

She had fallen asleep almost as soon as they were done, exhausted and spent, and he had had his arms around her ever since, staring at the ceiling as she rested her head on his chest, her arms snaked around him and her breaths deep and slow with slumber.

Jon held one of her hands in his and the other, the one curled around her, holding her to him…that one was absently threading through her hair.

The fire had long since died out and the frozen winds outside the window were angry and strong. It should have been cold, with the sheets pooled around their waists…but the heat from their bodies, from their love making, still shrouded them. Sansa’s breasts were smashed up against his side, one of her legs swung across his. 

They couldn’t be cold with her holding onto him like this, wrapped around him like a cloak or second layer of skin. She felt like that to him sometimes. Like he couldn’t be without her, like it would physically pain him to be separated.

Somewhat ironic that the sigil of House Bolton, of Sansa's former husband, had been a flayed man. That this was the way they tortured their enemies and prisoners. Because Jon felt that pain...whenever he thought of Sansa's previous marriage, of what that bastard Ramsay had done to her...when he thought of himself being only at the Wall while she was going through Hell. Far away, to be certain...but closer than he had been to any of his family since the day they had left Winterfell. It was too close...too close to have been sitting idle while Sansa was in pain, while she was being hurt.

When he thought of it...it felt like Ramsay himself was slicing his skin away. Separating him from that which he needed to live. To breathe.

Sansa.

He loved her. Her pain was his pain. Ramsay has come between them, and not just physically. 

But now…now he was content. Lying there with her in his arms. Having finally gotten the chance to love her like he wanted.

It was more than he even imagined it would be.

He had known he wanted it. Craved it. Dreamed about it. But he wasn’t prepared for how right it would feel. How it would make him so complete. So…finished.

That was it.

Finished.

With Sansa, Jon felt as if he was finally done fighting, searching, struggling. He was exactly where he was supposed to be. This was where he belonged. And he didn’t want to miss that feeling for one moment. He was tired but he didn’t want to close his eyes yet. Didn’t want to be snatched away from her by sleep. He had been in darkness for so long. He wanted to stay in the light with Sansa, in her warmth. Holding her in his arms.

I wonder if she’s with child, already.

The thought came to him, unbidden, but once it was there, Jon couldn’t help but smile.

They had only done it once, and he knew it didn’t always happen the first time, that people struggled and waited…but he couldn’t help the warmth that erupted in his chest at the thought. The thought that Sansa could be carrying his baby. That their child could be growing inside her right at this moment, that her body would swell as it grew within her.

A part of her and a part of him.

Two halves of a greater whole.

A miniature Robb to play as Aemon the Dragonknight. Or a little Cat for Sansa to dote on.

Just then, Sansa stirred in his arms, mumbling under her breath as she tightened her grip on him.

Jon smiled. She was a sleep talker. He had no idea. But he liked it. 

‘Jon…’ she murmured, with a sleepy smile and a soft giggle. ‘Do that again….that thing with your tongue.’

Jon shook with silent laughter and bit his lip to hid his grin.

Leaning down, he placed a kiss on the top of her head and then drew back against the pillow, sighing in contentment. 

Whatever the future held, Jon knew it would be a good one.

With Sansa at his side, it couldn’t be any other way.